Editor's Note: Tune in to AC360º at 10pm to find out more about undergraduate students facing hurdles because of their immigrant status and what the DREAM Act could mean for them.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/03/art.undocumented.students.jpg caption="A group of undocumented students interviewed for the story."]
CNN Senior Producer
The issue of illegal immigration to the United States from Mexico is always a hot button topic. I have produced numerous stories on illegal immigration from all sides and from both sides of the border.
My most recent story that I produced for the Anderson Cooper 360 Show about undocumented students took me back to my college roots – UCLA.
When I came back to campus this go around it was to meet with a group of undocumented students who belong to IDEAS (Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success). We talked to them about how their illegal status affects their quest to get an education.
Just hearing about how they don't qualify for any financial aid, can't get drivers licenses and the impact it has on their lives made me think about my own college experiences.
Some travel for hours by bus just to make an 8am class. When I lived on campus it was still a "struggle" to make it to class on time and all I had to do was walk across campus.
Part-time job – not one that pays legally. Which means any research grant positions in their field of study is off the table. I have very fond memories of working at the local Ski & Sports shop to help pay my way through college.
Leasing an apartment, without a social security number – out of the question. I don't think anyone forgets their first apartment. I remember the excitement of renting a small one bedroom with a friend who I had been my roommate in the dorms.
As undocumented students, they aren't able to do some of the social things that are the fabric of college life. Go to an R-rated movie or frequent a college student’s survival staple – Happy Hour. I remember Taco Tuesday's at the local bar where you could buy one drink and eat dinner for free.
Hopping on a plane for a quick Spring Break trip – no way. These mostly straight A, high achieving students can't even think about doing that. They can't fly without identification and it's risky to even cross state lines by car.
After spending some time with these students, you realize they face daily challenges that most of their fellow students can't even imagine. The biggest among them is living with the daily fear of getting stopped and deported.
My biggest college worry – mid-terms and finals.
Their future outlook...
Nancy got accepted to UCLA and Harvard Master's in education programs.
Jacob and Christopher want to be top notch doctors.
Mario wants to be an economist.
Jacqueline and Nancy aspire to be lawyers.
All of them have the potential and passion to reach those goals but the reality is their future hinges on immigration reform.
My reality – I got to help tell their story.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with